Just south of Beaver, Utah Highway 20 crosses the mountains to connect up with US Highway 89 some 21 miles east of Interstate 15. As 89 was the road we would be taking on into Phoenix, we needed to cross over. The summit on highway 20 is over 7900 feet, and this is considered the preferable route across the mountains. I love Wikipedia's opening sentence in its description of the highway: "State Route 20 SR-20 is a state highway in southern Utah, running 20.492 miles (32.979 km) in Iron and Garfield Counties , without directly serving or connecting any cities." (Emphasis mine) The highway has some history, and I recommend reading the Wikipedia article about it. I don't recall anything about our crossing, though, and soon enough we were on US 89 headed south.
Along US 89
Near Panguitch, Utah
The first town you come to on 89 is Panguitch, a town settled by Mormon pioneers in 1864. Their story is one more tale of desperation and perserverence--the kind of story that helps explain why I admire the Mormon people while being terrified of the Mormon church. Today, thanks to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park and other recreational venues in the area, Panguitch survives mostly through the tourist trade.
We didn't stop in Panguitch, though, nor did we take the sidetrip to Bryce Canyon. Instead we continued south toward Kanab, passing a series of billboards advertising a restaurant and its "Ho Made Pies." Didn't sound very Mormon, but then, neither did the billboards advertising Polygamy Porter that appeared at the time of the Salt Lake Olympics. We didn't stop for pie, either, so I can't really comment on the quality of the goods made by those poor Hos.
US Highway 89 Southbound
Kane County, Utah
US 89 is a beautiful drive through southern Utah. It takes off from Interstate 15 near Provo, and parallels the Interstate on the eastern side of the mountains. South of Panguitch and Utah Highway 12 which leads to Bryce Canyon, the route has been designated The Mount Carmel Scenic Byway. Heading south, we were descending what's been called The Grand Staircase, a geologic formation that begins with the Grand Canyon and extends northward to Bryce Canyon and beyond. The "steps" of the staircase include the Chocolate Cliffs, the Vermillion Cliffs, the White Cliffs, the Grey Cliffs, and the Pink Cliffs. We certainly saw all of those colors in the rocks walls along the highway. I wish I had known then what I have since found out about the local topography. I would have insisted on more camera stops, rather than relying on taking pictures through the windows of a moving vehicle.
The Pink Cliffs?
Kane County, Utah
Driving south-bound on 89, you must make a decision at Kanab. Highway 89 turns due east, and stays north of the Utah/Arizona state line while 89A continues south, crossing the state line then paralleling the north rim of the Grand Canyon, albeit at quite a distance away. The two eventually reconnect in northern Arizona, but 89 is a faster highway in that it is both wider and has fewer twists and turns than the alternate. I've now traveled both, and I would be hard put to say which is the more scenic. It all depends on what you like in scenery. For this trip, we turned east at Kanab and headed toward the Escalante Canyon and Glen Canyon Dam.
Descending the Grand Staircase
US Highway 89, Kane County Utah
Just north of Glen Canyon Dam, the road turns south again and crosses into Arizona. I made Kevin stop the truck so I could take a picture of the dam through the safety barrier fence that lines the highway. The dam is impressive, as I find all such dams impressive, and I never miss the opportunity to photograph these structures.
Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River
We refueled in Page, Arizona, a town built to service Glen Canyon Dam, and couldn't help but notice that watersports were particularly popular in this desert community. Highway 89 was closed south of Page due to reconstruction necessary after a landslide buckled the pavement back in 2013. The Arizona Department of Transportation paved Navajo Highway 20 and opened it as US 89 Temporary. They estimate it will take two years to rebuild the original highway. If you're interested in such things, KPHO, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, has a fascinating article on line about the incident.
The drive on into Flagstaff, and ultimately Phoenix, was notable only in that we missed every single opportunity I had planned out to grab a few Arizona geocaches. I had geocached in 17 states and the Canadian province of British Columbia, but had never scored a find in Arizona. I was determined that this trip would remedy that situation, but even though I had several caches programmed into my Garmin, we managed to miss every one of them. Oh well.
We stopped for a late lunch in Flagstaff, and in no time at all we were on Interstate 17 heading south to Phoenix. Dinner with friend Jeffory at a Chinese restaurant was fun, and after dinner we found wonderful lodgings through the HotelTonight app on my iPhone. Two days of driving had carried us over 1260 miles and lots of scenic landscapes.